More than a decade ago, my parents took my brother and I to a village in Tamil Nadu. I still remember asking them why they were calling it a holiday, when I saw the thatched house we were supposed to be living in.
Since then, even though we’ve visited various other places, we fondly remember those two days in that village. We climbed trees, chased goats, bathed in the stream, and ran around in paddy fields. We even went out into the fields and helped the farmers till the land. It was exhausting and exciting, all at once.
Learn how to grow oyster mushrooms in your backyard using easy techniques in less than six hours! Book your slot at this awesome workshop being hosted by Village Story, here.
One could argue that when we were growing up, there were still some vestiges of rusticity in our lives. And most of us, I am sure, believe that the flavour of simplicity kept us grounded in life.
Kids today are growing up oblivious of what it would be like to live among nature, and games like pitthu, gilli danda, kanche are just names that sound somewhat alien to them.
Anamika Bist, a Bangalore resident, grew up doing all this and more in the steel city of Bokaro. After almost two decades of a corporate career, she decided to go back to her roots and started what she calls Village Story.
In this interview with The Better India, Anamika speaks about how she has transformed a passion into a career and how she sees this venture going forward.
“It was the holiday months that we spent with our grandparents that sowed the seeds of Village Story. I wanted to bring back playing kabaddi, flying kites, playing pitthu, among other things” begins Anamika.
It’s all not just about fun and games though. What she aims to do with Village Story goes even deeper.
What is Village Story?
Having spent her growing up years in Jharkhand, Anamika went on to do her graduation in Literature from SNDT in Bombay and a post-graduation degree in garment manufacturing from NIFT, Delhi.
After this began the two-decade-long rat-race phase of her life until it ended up consuming her.
The time came when Anamika was constantly stressed and overwhelmed with the schedule and felt that she was heading towards a burnout. So, she decided to take a break and re-evaluate all she was doing in life. “It was born out of a deep-rooted frustration I felt towards the corporate life,” she says.
“I was sure of not wanting a corporate career anymore, and around this time, a friend approached me and asked me to take a look at a plot of land he had in Jakkur, which was lying vacant. The idea was to do something unique with it.”
Anamika yearned for something that would help her break away from the shackles of the city, and one look at the land made her realise that this could be it. She spent time there, connecting with it.
“I started growing vegetables in the land, and once they were harvested, the surplus was distributed amongst family and friends. That is when the idea of community farming struck me!”
On 15th August 2017, Anamika started a subscription farming initiative called ‘Square Foot Farming’ for busy urban dwellers.
Explaining the concept, Anamika says, “Anyone who wants to get their hands dirty, eat healthy food, and grow what they want to consume is welcome. You can take up a 7×7 ft plot of land, which you could use to grow your chosen greens. Our team will help you choose the seeds and teach you the basics of growing your own food in a natural/ organic way. Once done, the team at Village Story will take over and ensure that your patch is well taken care of. Everything that you need for farming is provided for—the plot of land, soil, seeds, saplings, compost and cocopeat, gardening equipment, harvesting baskets etc. One can rent the plot of land for a minimum of three months at Rs 2000 a month. If you like, you can also rent it out for one year.”
A multitude of vegetables like baby spinach, fenugreek, cilantro, parsley, kale, muzuna, tatsoi, leek, rocket, lettuce, Lollo Rosso lettuce, Oakwood Lettuce, Swiss chard, garlic, dill, fennel, amaranthus, and microgreens like neem, moringa leaves and flowers, raw turmeric, aloe vera, and tulsi are grown at the farm.
More than the idea of the harvest, it is the experience of doing something on your own, something which helps you get away from your daily life, and also making something productive, creative, and connecting directly with the earth is what drove people to come to the Village Story.
The harvest was just the cherry on top!
Anamika says that today, as parents, we are overfeeding our children and over-exposing them to gadgets, and most often are bringing them up in such protected environments that it might not be the best thing to do.
“Even when we go to meet grandparents we realise that they have also become modern, it isn’t the same as when we were growing up. So, the idea of Village Story was to recreate the magic that I felt when I was growing up. Here, we want the parents and kids to get their hands dirty, experience growing their own food, participating in the harvesting process, and learning through it all.”
So what can you expect if you decide to spend a day at the farm?
Other than hands-on farming experience, Anamika has designed an entire day filled with learning and fun.
“We encourage children and parents to come and cook their own food in the traditional chulha, and there are pottery, puppet making, storytelling, mandala and wall art workshops as well.”
I am at a loss for words when she asks me about the last time I looked at the night sky and spent time identifying the various constellations
“Come visit us at the farm, and you will be able to see the stars above; the joy of doing that with your children is something else,” she says.
Was it all as simple as it sounds?
“Absolutely not,” says Anamika. “Being an entrepreneur itself is a huge challenge, and to top that being a woman entrepreneur brings with it its own set of challenges. It is not easy to get people outdoors and ask them to start growing their own food. I still struggle to make this concept acceptable.”
When asked about the way forward, Anamika says, “the intention is to get as many people as possible into this community. The more people joining us will mean that much more understanding and appreciation of the environment and farming community.”
If you are keen on spending your weekend indulging in some farming, then we have just the thing for you.
Village Story is hosting a workshop on how to grow oyster mushrooms in your backyard. Being conducted by Vinay Parade, the workshop will help you learn easy techniques in less than six hours! Book your slot at this awesome workshop, here.
Go ahead, get your hands dirty. You won’t regret it!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)